River Tam’s Blue Dress and Sewing for Others

I got commissioned to make River Tam’s blue dress from Serenity. I can’t tell you how exciting this is and while it won’t be a replica I’m still going for a couple of identifiable components to the dress.

I tried draping the dress with a red organza I had but I scraped it and moved forward with a pattern instead.


My client wants a couple of additions to her version of the dress. It’s important that she feel awesome in this dress and so long as the color matches and the bottom hem is made carefully uneven, I think it’ll be recognized as River’s blue dress.

I’ve done a fitting with the slip that goes under the chiffon dress and it went great. All I got were measurements over email so I’d consider that a big win. Now I’m waiting for some chiffon to arrive to see if it’s the right color. It’s a decision you have to make and stick by. Do you go for making a dress that matches the color on screen, that photographs as the screen color or do you make it so people in person recognize the color as the color of the original dress? I’m going for the combo pack. It’s not a replica, as I said earlier, so I’m not incredibly concerned with an absolute perfect match. For more pics of the dress, check out this site.

I’ve also seen slightly brighter and slightly darker dresses on cosplayers and when you combine the boots and the hair and say, “Miranda” and go nuts, I don’t think a fan would argue with you.

While writing this, I’ve been distracted by watching Summer Glau, who plays River, learning and rehearsing the moves for the fight scene in the Maidenhead bar scene. Her moves are so incredibly graceful and I really love how important it was for Joss to have a realistic fight- one where things don’t always go River’s way.

A bit on sewing for others. I know not everyone enjoys it. I really do. Not always and not for all projects, and that’s why I like working for myself. I can always say no to a project.

The big question I get is how much I charge. I know what I could/should charge for this dress, as custom fit as it is already but I’m not charging what I should. When I think about who would pay my price, another conversation happens in my head.

Everyone has things that they will pay more for, be it organic produce, designer clothes, a particular type of car, trips to the salon. You name it. For whatever reason, we feel it’s important to pay a bit more for one thing but not on another- for instance, I buy cheap shampoo but I’ll pay more for toothpaste. Everyone has their own reasons and it’s no use trying to argue someone into thinking like you do. However, at some point, I’ll be ready to charge what I should and I don’t think that my clientele will be who it is today. Especially if I charge what I should for the little luxuries that handmade clothes can be. I know myself and I think that for those things I really want, that are out of my regular monthly budget, I save up for so that I can afford them. Perhaps other people do the same? Do you?

What do you save up for/pay more for and what things could you care less about?


14 thoughts on “River Tam’s Blue Dress and Sewing for Others

  1. Tia Dia says:

    Oh, wow. Talk about seeing the conversations I have in my own head in print! I have always hesitated to sew for others, but get roped into it now and then. I recently agreed (as an “audition” of sorts) to sew up 4 garments on request, and they were a challenge. My biggest anxiety around the project was what to charge and making sure my perfectionism was satisfied. I decided, because I really didn’t want to do these request projects, to be up front and charge what I wanted to charge. And since I had no idea what I was getting into or how long it would take me (I’ve never charted hours per project, y’know?), I charged by the hour. The client was quite happy with my amounts and being up-front, and, because I had to, I learned that certain garments, although they seem easy peasy, can be the ones that take hours and hours and hours. It was an interesting learning process. The tailored suit took the least amount of time, which really didn’t surprise me, because I prefer tailoring to flou any day.

    As for myself, well, I was taught to spend a little more on good quality and buy less often, so that seems to be the filter through which I make spending decisions. And saving up for something isn’t an option right now: 3 girls growing means any little money stashed away is needed before I can get to it! 🙂

    • Leila says:

      That’s great that you charged what you wanted to charge. I’ve lost gigs charging what I should’ve but at the same time I know that when I charge less than I should, that becomes the expectation for any further projects.

      I like the buy less often approach.

  2. Rachel says:

    Yep I know I go cheap on some stuff and am a total snob about others.

    I think a lot of people don’t appreciate the time and skill that goes in to projects like these. And I agree it is best to quote your price correctly than get yourself backed into a corner and have a client want a bunch of projects done at a rate where you’re basically volunteering time.

    That can sure be hard to do though especially if you are trying to grow a business or really want the project.


    • Leila says:

      Exactly. I’m also finding that quoting someone requires all the details all laid out, which didn’t really happen on this project. Live and learn, I suppose.

  3. Brooke says:

    There are definitely some things I’m willing to pay someone else to do (even if I know I could do it myself). And I’m always willing to pay more for custom or quality. (If I were rich, I’d hire someone to cook for me.)

    It’s tricky to make others happy with custom sewing when so much of the store-bought clothing industry is basically considered disposable. After years of trying to perfect my quotes for custom work, I’ve found that it seems to work best for me when I estimate the labor hours and supply cost (not depending on a sale) and offer to do something for a flat rate – meaning that I buy the supplies for the best price I can get and then any money left is what I get paid. The clients always seem happier when there are no surprises in the end (you just have to be good with your labor hour estimates to do it that way).

  4. Molly says:

    I love this dress so much! I’m planning to cosplay River Tam in October at NICE Con in the UK, and I was wondering if you can give me any advice on how to make the dress? Any particular pattern to follow, and particularly how to get the hem that perfectly uneven? Thanks, love your work!

  5. Molly says:

    Hey, I’m planning on doing a River Tam cosplay in September and I was wondering if you have any advice on making this dress that you could offer? Love you work by the way!

  6. Jane S. says:

    Wow, that’s an amazing reproduction! Would you be willing to make another? If so, please contact me; I would definitely be willing to shell out for this!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s